Search and retrieval operations in Occidental Mindoro continue for the passengers and crew of Liberty 5 (Photo courtesy of PDRRMO Occidental Mindoro)

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has cleared the Hong Kong-flagged MV Vienna Wood of any wrongdoing over the alleged hit-and-run of the Liberty 5 fishing vessel, as it moved to switch to search and retrieval operation of its missing passengers and crew of 14.

A Philippine News Agency (PNA) story quoted the PCG as stating that the foreign vessel’s behavior after the collision was intended to “achieve a safe distance” from the fishing vessel and “avoid another collision”.

“Hindi naman nag-commit ng hit-and-run ang MV Vienna Wood. Lumayo lang sila to achieve a safe distance. Tapos, napansin rin nila na may pitong vessels ang nag-respond sa capsized vessel,” PCG commandant Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr. was quoted in the PNA report as saying.

The fishing vessel Liberty 5, which held 12 crew members and two passengers, collided with the MV Vienna Wood off the coast of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro on June 28.

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The vessel’s crew, the majority of whom are Palawan residents, have been missing at sea for nearly a week. Search and rescue operations have shifted to search and retrieval after five days of finding no survivors.

Ursabia further theorized that rough waves may have prevented the MV Vienna Wood from deploying a rescue vessel to the Liberty 5 crew and passengers. He said this was according to their investigations.

“Hindi sila nag-initiate na magbaba ng rescue boat. A factor would be ‘yung laki ng alon. They prioritized ‘yung proper navigation ng vessel dahil may mga maliliit na vessels na rin sa incident area,” he said.

“Yung mga barko kasi, ‘di tulad ng mga sasakyan sa kalsada, mas komplikado i-maniobra dahil may glide;” he added.

The PCG will also decide by Sunday (July 5) on whether they will extend their search and retrieval operations for two more days. Ursabia also assured that financial assistance will be extended to the family members of the missing crew and passengers.

Ursabia added that the PCG is gathering sworn statements from mariners and fishermen who first responded to the incident.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.